Weight Loss Benefits of Spirulina (Plus Smoothie Recipe)


Spirulina has been said to promote weight loss and fat burning, but is there any scientific evidence to support these claims, or are the weight loss benefits of spirulina nothing but a myth? Below, we take a look at two small-scale studies that provide some interesting insights into the potential of spirulina to promote weight loss. Obviously, we should not draw any definite conclusions about the weight loss effects of spirulina based on these two small studies, but the findings of these experiments certainly indicate there is need for further research in this area.

Please consult with a qualified healthcare professional before starting any new supplement.


Small but Statistically Significant Weight Loss in Obese Study Participants

In the mid 1980s, a group of researchers published an interesting double-blind cross-over study on spirulina and weight loss in Nutrition Reports International (now known as Journal of Nutritional Biochemistry). The study participants, all of whom were obese at the start of the study, were given either 2.8 grams of spirulina three times a day over a period of four weeks, or a placebo supplement over the same period. At the end of the four-week trial, the researchers observed a small but statistically significant reduction of body weight in those who had received the spirulina supplements, compared with those in the placebo group.


Spirulina Appears to Increase Fat Oxidation During Exercise

An intriguing study published in the January 2010 issue of Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise investigated the effects of spirulina on exercise performance and carbohydrate/fat oxidation in moderately trained men. Each of the nine men who took part in this study took either spirulina capsules or placebo capsules for four weeks, followed by a washout period with no supplementation. After the washout period, the men who had taken spirulina took placebo for four weeks, and vice versa. After each supplementation period, the men were asked to run on a treadmill at an intensity corresponding to 70%-75% of their VO2max (the maximum amount of oxygen the body can transport and use during exercise) for two hours and then at 95% VO2max to exhaustion. A significant increase in exercise performance was observed in those who had taken spirulina supplements over the past four weeks – the men were able to run an average of 30 percent longer after having been supplemented with spirulina. What's more, ingestion of spirulina decreased carbohydrate oxidation rate by 10.3 percent and increased fat oxidation rate by 10.9 percent during the two-hour run. This suggests that spirulina may help promote fat burning during exercise, while preserving the body's glycogen stores.


Further Research is Warranted

Further investigation, including additional studies, is clearly warranted before any definite conclusions can be made about the potential weight loss benefits of spirulina, but the results of the small studies described above certainly seem promising. What's more, spirulina use appears to be safe and have few side effects, so if you are tackling with excess body weight, it might be worth a try, provided that you talk to a qualified health care professional first and don't exceed the recommended doses. Even if you don't end up losing weight, you will have nourished your body with one of the most nutrient-dense foods out there.


Spirulina and Weight Loss

Weight Loss Smoothie with Spirulina Powder

Serves 1

Adding spirulina powder to smoothies is one of the easiest ways to eat spirulina. In this nourishing weight loss smoothie, spirulina comes together with white beans, mango and kiwi. White beans are low in calories and fat and high in protein and fiber, plus their mild beany flavor is easily masked by the fruity flavors of mango and kiwi. What's more, according to a study published in the Nutrition Journal in 2011, the common white bean has enzymes that appear to prevent starch digestion, which in turn may have beneficial effects for those who tend to gain weight when consuming a lot of carbohydrates.

Ingredients
  • 1/2 scant cup cooked white beans, chilled
  • 1/2 mango, diced
  • 2 kiwis, peeled
  • 1/4 tsp spirulina powder
  • 1 cup almond milk
  • 1/4 cup crushed ice
Instructions

Throw everything into a high-powdered blender or food processor, and blend until smooth. Pour the smoothie into a glass and drink immediately.


Note: As with all supplements, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration does not impose strict regulations on the production of spirulina supplements, and some spirulina products may contain high levels of heavy metals or other harmful substances such as microcystins. To be on the safe(r) side, only purchase spirulina products from trusted suppliers. If you are interested in buying a batch of US-grown spirulina tested for heavy metals and microcystins, check out Nutrex Hawaii's spirulina tablets and powders which are available on Amazon.com, Amazon.co.uk and Amazon.ca.


References

1. EW Becker et al (1986). Clinical and biochemical evaluations of the alga spirulina with regard to its application in the treatment of obesity. A double-blind cross-over study. Nutrition Reports International, 33: 565-574.
2. M Kalafati et al (2010). Ergogenic and antioxidant effects of spirulina supplementation in humans. Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, 42(1), 142-51.
3. M. Barrett and J. Udani (2011). A proprietary alpha-amylase inhibitor from white bean (Phaseolus vulgaris): A review of clinical studies on weight loss and glycemic control. Nutrition Journal, 10:24.




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